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16 Ways to Travel Cheap

Make your next vacation affordable with discounted airfare, hotel deals and more

Elwood Smith

En español  |  1. Broadway bound. Many shows offer affordable tickets at the box office on the day of performance, by lottery or for standing room only. For participating shows and details, search for " Broadway rush."

2. Birders alert. Log on to It will link you up with a birdwatcher who'll happily share the ornithological wonders of the country you're visiting.

3. Travel bargains. The AARP Travel Center, at, offers discounts on car rentals and hotels, up to $100 in extra onboard credits on select cruises, savings of up to $525 on vacation packages, and more. Explore online or call 1-800-675-4318.

4. Feeling adventurous? Consider a visit to CouchSurfing, Hospitality Exchange or Servas International, online sites where you can find people who host visitors in their homes for free.

5. Compact move. Unless you're traveling with lots of people or lots of luggage, reserve a cheaper compact car with better fuel efficiency. Compacts aren't popular, and rental companies fill their lots with bigger cars; if they run out of compacts, you might get a free upgrade.

6. Smooth sailing. Cruises — especially shorter and less-expensive sailings, but luxury trips as well — will be bargains by midsummer and fall. Check out

7. Flying time. The best deals on vacation flights are in January and February, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, according to

8. Group airfares. Put together at least 10 travelers and you may save on carriers that include Southwest, United and American. Also, ask tour operators and cruise lines about group deals.

9. Park perk. The America the Beautiful senior pass for $10 provides a lifetime entry to 2,000 national parks and recreation sites.

Ways to save on travel expenses - illustration of a forest inside a suitcase

Check out special credit cards that waive "foreign transaction fees." — Photo by BASE/Corbis

10. Kids eat free — or at a discount — at dozens of chain restaurants. Check ahead for details at and

11. Cheaper airfare. Consolidators buy tickets from airlines in bulk and resell them at prices generally way below published fares. These tickets are for regular flights on major lines. Check your newspaper's Sunday travel section.

12. Bus or train? Both have deals. Intercity travel by bus has taken off. It's cheaper than plane or train and drops you off in the center of town. Many buses offer free Wi-Fi and power outlets. With several lines, like BoltBus and Megabus, you can save big by booking early online. If you prefer the train, Amtrak cuts 15 percent off most fares for riders 62 or older. VIA Rail Canada offers 10 percent off the full adult fare for travelers over 60.

13. Free hot spots. Find free Wi-Fi at The searchable site lists some 500,000 hot spots, both the free and not-free kind, in 144 countries.

14. Dodge those fees. Avoid "foreign transaction fees" for overseas purchases. Check out special credit cards that waive those fees at websites like and Make sure the benefits aren't outweighed by high annual fees or interest rates.

15. Check rentals. You can check the daily car rate on sites like,, Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz, and compare with rates on car rental company sites. For accurate comparison, make sure you include fees and taxes. Find coupons at

16. Walk this way. Search online for "Global Greeter Network" or "Sandemans New Europe" for free walking tours from town-proud locals, or type "free walking tours" and your destination city's name into the search field. There's no fee, but many guides work for tips.

Contributors to 99 Great Ways to Save 2012: Arthur Dalglish, Cathie Gandel, Joan Rattner Heilman, Sid Kirchheimer, Jason L. Lawrence, Marsha Mercer, Geoff Williams, Jeff Yeager and AARP members like you.

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